Kia ora: Carterton

Elisabeth Easther checks out the cheery Daffodil Capital.

Stonehenge Aotearoa is fabulous if you're after a pagan monument with grand views and sunsets. Photo / Supplied
Stonehenge Aotearoa is fabulous if you're after a pagan monument with grand views and sunsets. Photo / Supplied

Name: Carterton.

Origin of name: Originally called Three Mile Bush, the town was established in 1857 to house road workers and renamed by local philanthropist Charles Rooking Carter (also of the Carter Observatory).

Population: 7650.

Where is it: In the Wairarapa - 8km from Greytown, 12 km from Masterton and an hour over the Rimutakas to Wellington.

Best reason to stop: The vineyards, the bulging second-hand shops, the walking and cycling.

The town slogan: Daffodil Capital - although "From the Mountains to the Sea" is being touted.

The town's defining mascot feature: It used to be hot air balloons but since the recent tragedy, it's now daffodils.

Most famous locals: Sir Bob Charles, the left-handed golfer and Georgina Beyer, the world's first transgender mayor.

Prominent local businesses: Paua World, Premiere Bacon and Parkvale Mushrooms, as well as those aforementioned vineyards.

Best park: Carrington Park in the heart of town off High St has play equipment for all ages including a scooter park, flying fox and a fenced toddler area. Carterton Mountain Bike park, on the way to Mt Dick, is also grand.

Best place for a drink: Gladstone Vineyard - fantastic al fresco dining, wine tasting and kids' playground. Do a Summer Shakespeare in February and a sculpture festival too. Gladstone Inn Country Pub - great food, beers and a big garden bar next to the river.

Best food: Buckhorn Bar and Grill has great kids' menu for $8 and good hearty fare for adults. Tarragon Cafe does the best fluffies and milkshakes. Cafe Mirabelle for French country food, plus un homme veritable Francais serving (a real French waiter).

Best flat white: Expert says, "Tough call. Wild Oats or Tarragon."

Best bakery/cafe: Wild Oats for tasty cafe fare. And if you want a good ol' coffee lounge, Cafe Ole is cheap and cheerful.

Best local website: or

Source of pride: Carterton Events Centre, opened last year with a 300-seat auditorium, art gallery, library and youth wing. Nature is pretty neat too.

Best museum/gallery: The Railway Station Museum, Gasoline Heaven for vintage cars and Red Moa Gallery in main street.

Best walk: Fenshaw Reserve is good for a stroll, Carter Scenic Reserve is short and flat with swamps while Mt Holdsworth is where to go for day tramps.

Town competition: The Wheelbarrow Race in March. From Gladstone Inn to town with novelty races including best decorated wheelbarrow.

Best place to pull over: Waiohine Gorge is pretty cool with swimming spots and one of the longest swing bridges in New Zealand.

Here for a short time: Second-hand shops like Watsons, the Salvation Army and Fuzzy Vintage. Or enjoy the architecturally attractive pub, Marquis of Normandy.

Best swim: The free Carterton Pools. Outdoors with barbecue area, shady pear tree and three pools for all ages. Or river spots like Mt Holdsworth, Waiohine Gorge, Deakins Rd - all with toilets, too.

People should know: In September, the Daffodil Carnival brings the steam train in from Wellington and free buses offer trips to Middlemarch Farm for daffodil picking.

Notable wildlife: Lots of native birds. And sheep. The last huia bird was sighted in the Tararua Ranges about 105 years ago.


From Mt Dick to the back of Dalefield in the Tararuas. Lake Ferry to the sea, or Lake Wairarapa up to Eketahuna. Stonehenge Aotearoa is fabulous if you're after a pagan monument up a hill with grand views and sunsets.

* Thank you to local woman Rowena Patterson who kindly shared her knowledge of the town's charms.

- NZ Herald

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